My grandfather asked me: could I remember
him, the park, the birds, the bread?
I’ll be dying soon, he said.

His voice would stretch the ocean and end there,
inside the olive phone in our tiny kitchen.
My mother would stretch the green shell to my ear,
speak, say something, speak. My fingers tugged the cord
across our red wooden table. Listening to the dark adios,
I carved half moons into the wood with my fingernails.
In case I am dead by your next birthday, hija, remember . . .

We ate without him, without any elders
and the world was fine.

We have yet to bury our bones in this foreign land.
When we do, where will we come from then?
Already, home is a carnation pinned to our cold breasts.

From “Beasts Behave in Foreign Land” (Red Hen Press, 2017). This poem is reprinted with permission from The Quarry, produced by Split This Rock. Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness is a three-day poetry festival in Washington, DC, which takes place this year from April 19-21. The program includes readings by some of the most significant and artistically vibrant poets writing and performing today, including Elizabeth Acevedo, Sherwin Bitsui, Camille Dungy, Sharon Olds, Sonia Sanchez, and Paul Tran. Readings by featured poets are free and open to the public. You can learn more about and register for the festival here.

Reflections